E3 2013 Preview: Mario Kart 8 defies gravity

Mario Kart 8 isn't looking to reinvent the wheel, but it is looking to bring the charming racing game we've all grown to love to the Wii U, with a bit of a twist. The latest kart racing game from Nintendo — announced back in January, but officially revealed this week at E3 — was one of the many playable titles at Nintendo's E3 booth this year. 

Mario Kart 8 plays largely the same as Mario Kart 7, with the return of kart mechanics like the glider and the propeller, but added to the mix is the brand new anti-gravity hover mechanic. Now you can drive hover on walls and ceilings. Say goodbye to traditional racing as we knew it in the Mario Kart series as the hover mechanic opens the tracks up in ways you've never experienced before.

The ability to drive on walls and ceilings not only creates a new perspective on tracks, but expands the number of alternative routes, opening up possible shortcuts or even potential hazards. These new areas will change the way you approach each track as you'll need to effectively plan how to make use of your items on a map. The map is no longer just a flat plane; you must now plan your attacks accordingly depending on what area of the track your on.

Gameplay strategy aside, the new hover mechanic creates an overall more appealing track to race on. The alternative routes coupled with the ever changing perspective allow for a more dynamic racing experience. Throw in the glider, propeller, and hover karts, and each track will seem fresh.

Of course, Mario Kart 8 does still retain that same simplistic racing characteristic that made past titles in the series so much fun to just pick up and play. The racing mechanics still feel the same overall, but are a bit more finely tuned than past games. In my gameplay demo we played on the tracks whose names were not yet finalized (one seemed like a track for Peach while another was a haunted mansion type track). The important thing is that each felt different and individually stylized with their own unique twists, turns, and alternative routes.

Mario Kart 8 is well on its way to becoming one of the finer games on the Wii U. While I only experienced a handful of tracks and got a brief glimpse of the character roster (which included Mario, Toadette, Daisy, Koopa Troopa, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Waluigi, and Peach, among others) I am confident in saying that Mario Kart 8 is one of the more polished demos I saw at E3. Gameplay was smooth and fluid, tracks were unique, and it was just an overall fun experience. it was exactly what you'd expect from a Mario Kart game.

Mario Kart 8 races on to Wii U in 2014.